Your Kid’s Not Going Pro

A Youth Sports Blog

Archive for May 2009

Sports on Friday, Saturday and SUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAY!!!!!!

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Alas, while we know Jan Gabriel invented “SUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAY” doing ads for the US 30 Dragstrip in Hobart, Ind., in the 1970s, it is still lost to history who invented “you’ll pay for the whole seat, but YOU’LL ONLY NEED THE EDGE!!!!!!!”

Following (way behind) Pope John Paul II’s admonition for kids not to play organized sports on Sundays comes a message from multiple Christian churches in Worcester, Mass., for leagues to stop scheduling, and kids to stop playing, games on the modern Sabbath.

From the local Telegram & Gazette:

… This weekend, pastors from 17 churches of various denominations in Webster, Dudley, and Oxford are imploring their congregants to set aside Sunday as “a time of rest and reprieve from a busy week.”

The pastors, many of them members of the nine-member Webster-Dudley Ecumenical Group, are also asking sports league officials not to schedule games or practice on Sunday mornings.

The Rev. Luke A. Veronis of Sts. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church in Webster said the demands of today’s secular society have drastically cut in on family and church time.

“Some parents who want to spend time with their kids on Sunday and who want their children to go to church feel that they are the parental oddballs,” said Rev. Veronis. …

He said that kids are even feeling the pressure, noting that there are altar servers in his parish who are conflicted about fulfilling their spiritual obligations by going to church or playing sports with their teammates.

Rev. Veronis said he even had to face up to the issue, telling his 10-year-old son, Paul, that he could not play youth football because the schedule conflicted with Sunday church services.

“It was tough telling him he couldn’t participate. Obviously, he didn’t really understand. All he knew was that his friends would be out on the field playing ball while he had to go to church,” explained Rev. Veronis, noting that Sunday became less family-day friendly with the easing of the state’s commercial blue laws years ago.

He said it is difficult to counsel parents on the matter because many have turned youth sports into a “religion.” He said others give in to their children’s wishes because they don’t want their kids to view them as bad parents.

Complaining about the end of blue laws? Believing their followers see sports as a religion? Sounds like these men of the cloth are getting tired of getting the holy shit beat out of them by the competition.

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Hey, cut that out.

Written by rkcookjr

May 31, 2009 at 1:16 pm

Jodi Scheffler, meet Phillip Sandford’s lawyer

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If Jodi Scheffler, the Kirkland, Wash., Little League mom facing criminal charges for allegedly attacking a 12-year-old Little League player she said was taunting her son, has any hope, it’s what happened in a New Brunswick, N.J., courtroom on Friday. Not that Washington courts pay New Jersey courts any legal mind, but at least it shows you can attack someone who did wrong to your child and not have it blotch your permanent record, at least in the non-Internet world.

Former wrestling coach Phillip Sandford, following a mistrial, pleaded guilty to charges he assaulted a wrestler he believed was unduly beating up his son. (The clip is here.) If Sandford undergoes anger management, stays away from Sayreville wrestling matches for two years (Sayreville being the hometown of the wrestler he tackled) and doesn’t coach youth sports for that same period, there will be no record of his conviction or sentence.

Maybe if things aren’t looking so good for Scheffler, she can get herself one of those deals. Though I’m not sure it helps that some of her friends wore “Team Jodi” T-shirts for a recent game, the first against the team featuring the player she was alleged to have hit.

Those dudes with cameras at your kids’ games? That would be MLB Network

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MLB Network, the TV arm of Major League Baseball, stretches the definition of “major” in its August TV schedule. Not content to let ABC have all the fun with the Little League World Series, MLB Network has declared August “Youth Baseball Month.” From its own release:

MLB Network today announced that August will be “Youth Baseball Month” on MLB Network, with exclusive broadcasts of the final rounds of the RBI World Series presented by KPMG, New Era National Youth Baseball Championships and the Cal Ripken World Series this August. Coverage will begin on August 9 with the Senior Boys RBI World Series presented by KPMG, continue with the Cal Ripken World Series on August 21 and 22, and conclude with the New Era National Youth Baseball Championships from August 27-30 for the 10-Under and 12-Under divisions.

Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. will join his brother and MLB Network analyst Bill Ripken in the broadcast booth throughout the Cal Ripken World Series. Broadcast teams for each event will include MLB Network on-air talent.

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“Welcome to MLB Network, everybody. I’m Cal Ripken, and joining me in the booth is my brother, Fuck Face.”

In case you don’t know, RBI Baseball is MLB’s inner-city program. Cal Ripken [which is a 12-and-under championship] is what used to be the Babe Ruth League. And the New Era Championships (yes, New Era is the name of the sponsor) has 10-and-under and 12-and-under national championships. So if you thought a Little League World Series was exploitative, just wait!

“As part of our 24/7 coverage of baseball, it’s important to include programming that is relevant to the sport’s younger players and fans,” said Tony Petitti, President and CEO of MLB Network. “These three marquee events are deserving of a national TV audience and we are looking forward to bringing them to MLB Network this summer.”

Translation: We can fill dead air time! Yay!

Within five years, if your kid’s league isn’t on TV, then the game just won’t be worth playing.

Ain’t that a kick in the head

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If you’ve been watching the Detroit Red Wings-Chicago Blackhawks NHL Western Conference final series, your teeth might still be rattling over the hit Detroit’s Niklas Kronwall put on the Hawks’ Martin (or as everyone in Chicago calls him, Marty, because 90 percent of Chicago males are named either Marty or Mike) Havlat in game three. It’s why they coach hockey players to keep their heads up, lest you lose yours.

Havlat suffered a concussion (as far as we can guess, because the NHL won’t say). He was out cold for at least two minutes. And yet Chicago’s leading scorer suited up for game four. Concussion specialist Michael Czarnota, the neuropsychology consultant for the Canadian Hockey League, told CBCSports.ca he was “shocked” to see Havlat back.

But he shouldn’t have been surprised. It’s endemic in all levels of hockey, the sports Czarnota points to as having the most concussions, to have players come back after what is more than getting your bell rung — it’s a serious brain injury.

On May 27, three days after Havlat’s post-concussive return, a study by a Toronto physician found that youth coaches, parents and players knew little about concussions, including whether it is a good idea to return to the ice soon after having one. (The right answer: no.) Among the study’s findings, which I’ve taken from a press release:

Up to two-thirds of players had the mistaken impression that a player does not have to lose consciousness to have suffered a concussion. One quarter of adults and up to half of children could not identify any symptoms of a concussion or could name only one symptom of a concussion. About one-half of players and one-fifth of adults mistakenly believed concussions are treated with medication or physical therapy. About one-quarter of all players did not know if an athlete experiencing symptoms of a concussion should continue playing.

The study also found that in Canada, hockey players ages 5-17 “have about 2.8 concussions per 1,000 player-hours of ice hockey while university and elite amateur players sustain rates of 4.2 and 6.6 concussions per 1,000 player hours.”

The study was released only two weeks after Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire signed a bill requiring any youth showing signs of a concussion to get clearance from a medical professional before playing again. That was inspired by Zackery Lystedt, who at 13 suffered a hard hit in a football game, went back in, and then was hit a second time and put into a coma for 30 days.

The Toronto study also was released the same day USA Today ran a story about former NHL star Keith Primeau pledging (along with 120 athletes) to donate his brain after his death to a medical study looking at chronic traumatic encephalopathy. That is a degenerative brain disease similar to Alzheimer’s, found in people who have had multiple concussions. Primeau warned of the risks of concussions — to the point he won’t let his kids play football:

Concussions can be very hard to detect since not everyone passes out. Nausea, blurry vision and confusion are other symptoms. Within the past several years, increased awareness about concussions and “post-concussion syndrome” has led most professional and college teams to start using computer-based programs that measure attention, memory, processing speed and reaction time to one-hundredth of a second.

It is too costly for most high schools and youth programs, where it could help coaches and trainers identify problems and sideline players. Concussions account for almost one in 10 sports injuries for people ages 15 to 24, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Yet nearly 41% of high school athletes return to action too soon after concussions.

Primeau endured a career of blows to his head but adds that he won’t forget one that knocked him out:

“I spent the night in the hospital, flew the next day and was back in the lineup that day. That was the beginning of my demise.”

He now knows resting — and not playing until the concussion is healed — can help prevent long-term damage. He has started to use tests to determine if his athletes have concussions and has made decisions to keep kids off the ice.

“I can tell when a child has suffered a concussion,” he says. “I do not put them back on the ice. I’ve told parents I’m not putting their child back in. And I’ve actually had instances where parents will want to go in a different direction and the kids will go out on the ice and get sick.”

And other times, players are not honest. That was true of Primeau’s oldest son, Correy, who plays club-level hockey for Neumann College in Aston, Pa., and respects his father’s concerns.

“I played once with a concussion last year,” Correy says. “I wouldn’t do it again. I had trouble afterward for about a week, but I just didn’t want to let my team down at the time.”

As for Martin Havlat, who left game four after eight minutes when he took another hard hit, other hockey players are saying he was crazy — and a bad influence — for suiting up again. From the Toronto Globe and Mail:

Under the NHL’s absurd don’t-ask/don’t-tell policy governing injury disclosure in the postseason, no one will say for sure if Havlat was concussed. So it was left for media voices to speculate. Speaking on The Fan 590 in Toronto, former NHL defenceman Jeff Beukeboom– whose career was ended by severe post-concussion symptoms– decried Havlat’s rapid return.

“I think it sets a very bad example for the kids,” said Beukeboom, who feels players will be vulnerable to coercion by teams if there’s the false impression of a quick remedy after a concussion.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie– whose son has battled post-concussion syndrome from a hockey incident– was vocal on both radio and TV questioning … Havlat rushing back into play.

“The seven-day rule is actually from when the athlete is symptom-free,” McKenzie [said]. “But if he has a headache for three days after being hit, he’s supposed to wait seven days from the time he was symptom-free, not from when he was hit in the head.

“All of this is aimed at protecting the brain, which doesn’t respond well to second impact. In fact, there’s a condition called, I think, second-impact syndrome. If a concussed athlete, say Havlat, goes back into game action when his brain is concussed, if the brain gets a second contact directly on the same part of the brain, death can be instantaneous.”

Expect the debate to continue in the media so long as the NHL remains in denial about head shots.

As the Stinson turns (big break for the defense edition)

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player-thumbIt’s a shame that Max Gilpin, the 15-year-old who died after a football practice last August in Louisville, Ky., is growing more and more of a footnote in the aftermath of his demise. But that’s how it goes when stuff like this happens.

From the Louisville Courier-Journal:

A Bullitt County circuit judge this morning [Tuesday] issued a domestic violence order against Jeffery Dean Gilpin, the father of the Pleasure Ridge Park football player who died after he collapsed at a practice.

During a court hearing, Gilpin’s wife, Lois Louise Gilpin, alleged that her husband had been abusive in the past and had recently threatened harm if she did anything to “dishonor” her stepson, Max Gilpin, who died at a practice on Aug. 23.

Jeff Gilpin, represented by attorneys, denied the allegations.

Nevertheless, Judge Elise Spainhour told Jeff Gilpin to avoid all contact with his wife and to enter anger counseling, along with grief counseling. The pair plan to divorce, they said.

“I’m very sorry you lost your child,” Spainhour told Jeff Gilpin. “You need to try to salvage your life. You don’t want to live in a sea of anger.”

Gilpin already has one ex-wife: Max’s mother, who is joining him in filing a civil lawsuit against former coach David Jason Stinson, as well as other coaches and the Louisville school district. They filed on the basis of wrongful death, saying Stinson denied water to players and pushed them too hard on a day when the heat index reached 94 degrees.

But what really made Max Gilpin’s case stand out is that Stinson is facing an August court date after a grand jury indicted him on reckless homicide charges as a result of the player’s death.

Presumably, Jeff Gilpin’s home life shouldn’ t have anything to do with Stinson’s guilt or innocence. But for sure Stinson’s lawyers will be poring through his divorce filings (if they haven’t already) looking for anything they can use. Already, Jeff Gilpin did them a favor during his civil trial deposition by saying he wasn’t sure that Stinson denied anyone water — a key fact on which the civil and criminal cases turn.

Stinson’s attorneys are going to be especially aggressive not only because they have a client to defend, but also because they know (thanks to the contributions they’re receiving from coaches nationwide) that Stinson’s guilt or innocence is going to have a profound effect on coaches’ authority. Especially their authority to inflict physical punishment like “gassers,” the sprint drills Stinson was alleged to have his players run because of a perceived lack of hustle, a coaching technique as old as coaching itself. With that at stake, and with his father’s personal foibles coming into the spotlight, it’s unfortunate Max Gilpin himself is more and more of an afterthought and symbol than a boy who died tragically.

Until it hurts… not so much

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cover-of-until-it-hurts1Great news! According to a study published in the online version of the medical journal Pediatrics, the number of youth baseball-related injuries reported by the nation’s hospital emergency departments dropped 24.9 percent between 1994 and 2006. The study’s authors said better safety equipment — helmets, mouth guards, breakaway bases — have gone a long way toward reducing the injury rate.

Bad news! According to that same study, the decrease also could be because there are more options than the hospital emergency room these days. For example, when my son hurt himself playing basketball, I took him to an urgent care center, not the hospital. Those visits would not show up in the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, the source data for the Pediatrics study. Also, overuse injuries are not the most likely to show up in the emergency department.

Still, even if the numbers aren’t 100 percent surefire, they’re still interesting. Your kid’s most likely injury, if you’re taking him to the hospital emergency room: soft tissue damage (mostly, meaning bruising) to the face (13.2 percent) and lacerations (cuts) to the face (also, 13.2 percent). Basically, getting hit in the face with a ball is the biggest injury problem. It’s a strong argument for masks on batting helmets, and masks for pitchers, first base and third base, the kind you see softball players wearing. Being hit the ball results in 46 percent of all injuries recorded in the study, while being hit by the bat is next at 24.9 percent. Getting injured while sliding ranked third, at 9.6 percent, but it ranked first, at 30.9 percent, for cause of fractures, a rate weighted by the higher incidence of sliding injuries among those 13 to 17.

The study itself notes the criticism of NEISS data because it doesn’t track much of anything beyond age of player and injury — no notes on days missed playing, or whether it was in a league or casual game, or what position a player was on the field when the injury occurred. The NEISS, and study, doesn’t track whether an injury was caused by overuse. So the study is mostly just an interesting little read. But it still gives a few clues into how and why kids get hurt, and what adults can do to lessen those chances while keeping the game loose and fun.

Hopefully the youth culture won’t kill their dog

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Most bands that see someone cop their image are immediately on the phone to their attorney to get a lawsuit good and ready. But most bands, as has been abundantly clear through a long, storied and quirk-filled career of college alternative, telephone-based, TV theme and children’s music, are not They Might Be Giants.

Two guys named John (like the two guys who make up They Might Be Giants) named their Seattle T-ball team after the band, using the images from their first children’s album, “No!” (It’s a word you end up saying a lot when you manage T-ball.) The two Johns in TMBG were so excited, they started a contest in which they will sponsor 10 more teams, anywhere across the nation.

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Photo of the Seattle T-ball team comes from a parent who submitted it to the band. I presume if the band is OK with a team using its image, it’ll be OK with me doing the same (fingers crossed).

The band is having you send your pitches (no pun intended) to littleleague@tmbg.com. You need to include your city, state and zip; the name of the local sports organization; the ages of your team members; the size of your team (presumably, number of players, not actual sizes of players, though both might be helpful); and anything else the band should know.

Band member John Flansburgh is quoted on the band’s site saying: “If a pizza parlor or a super market can sponsor a team, why can’t a rock band? We’ve posted a free shirt offer on our web site, and as new teams form we’re going to post their group photo alongside the Seattle team. We only have t-shirts to offer right now, but if we can get hats too, we’re up for that.”

Given the troubles many leagues are having attracting sponsors, this is a great offer, presuming your legal isn’t halfway over already (maybe the offer will be good for next season if it’s too late). I’m amazed more entertainment aimed at children, or even their parents, haven’t turned to youth sports sponsorship. “Night at the Museum 2″ probably could have sponsored every team in every sport in America for what it spent on TV ads, and reached just about as many kids and parents. I’m sure TMBG is doing this sponsorship contest out of the goodness of its heart. But a band that won a Grammy this year for its children’s album is reaching the right market handing out T-shirts to T-ballers.

However, I am emailing the band to find out if they understand what youth sports sponsorship entails. I’m curious how the two Johns (the T-ball coaches) got to pick the shirts. Depending on the league, TMBG is going to have to do more than hand out free T-shirts. Is the band willing to pay $200 to see “Phillies” on the front and “They Might Be Giants” on the back? I’m sure there are a lot of league boards that are going to have conniptions over the thought of the uniforms not being uniform.

Sports radio does something other than call for the manager’s firing

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Millsap, Texas, population 350, was looking at possibly having to shake $20 out of every man, woman and child to pay for the $7,000 theft of equipment from Millsap Youth Athletics. That is, until a talk radio station two counties to the east, in Dallas, took up their cause, what with their good heart and so much time on the air being freed up since Terrell Owens left town.

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Um, that’s Millsap, not Milsap.

The folks at ESPN 103.3 raised $3,000 on the air through bids on a sports ticket package until an anonymous listener called in, off the air, to pledge $5,000.

From the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

[Millsap Youth Athletics secretary Rita] Switzer was profoundly grateful.

“Whoever this anonymous donor is, I love you, I love you, I love you,” she said.

Switzer said smaller donations have come from residents across North Texas, both pledged on the telephone and sent through the mail.

Switzer said the community’s response to the theft is teaching the children about the good in people and how positive things can come out of bad.

“Before every meeting we have, the first thing we do is we pray. We pray for God to watch over the kids and for him to allow us to be the best we can be,” she said. “I feel this is an answer to those prayers.”

 I was just crying the whole time I was listening. They talked that story up like we were big-leaguers.”

Millsap isn’t the only youth sports organization to get a helping hand in a crisis wrought by theft. The Blue Island (Ill.) Little League has shaken a lot of helping hands after it lost $3,000 in food and equipment in a concession stand burglary. One man gave the whole kaboodle. The Chicago White Sox kicked in $500 and free tickets for the players. Other parents and other leagues kicked in some money, as well.

It’s nice to know that in a crisis, you can find friends in unexpected places. Especially if you can get the word out. Seriously leagues — if you suffer a sudden loss, let the world know so someone can help.

Dad Jekyll, Coach Hyde

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The latest question posed to the Positive Coaching Alliance: “Why is my husband such an asshole when he coaches?”

My husband is coaching our son’s 9 year old Little League Team. There are 2 other assistant coaches, each with a child (1 boy, 1 girl) on the team. The coaches are trying to teach sound fundamentals to all the kids, and, as is often the case they are all type-A sports-loving men.

All 3 coach’s [sic] kids have a lot of talent. All 3 are struggling with performance anxiety, especially in a game situation. All 3 are practically paralyzed each time they are up to bat. All 3 can hit at practice, but not in the game. All 3 want desperately to do well for their team and for their Dad. All 3 are scrutinized by their Dads when they bat because Dad wants desperately for them to overcome their anxiety and perform.

Only 1 child on the team (not one of the coaches’ children) consistently hits the ball. I hear some encouragement from the coaches but they are frustrated and I’m hearing a lot of comments from the coaches like: come on be a hitter, you’ve got to swing at that, swing the bat, be aggressive, etc.

I have tried talking to my husband, the head coach. He doesn’t seem to be able to change his approach.

Do you have any suggestions? These kids aren’t having fun and I fear they will lose their love for the game. Help!!
– Janet

Janet, dammit, I suggest you read an excellent, well-informed post from this here blog about coaching your own child. It tells you how your husband (and the assistants) should interact with his child (and their children) as a coach (coaches). It also tells you how easy it is to fuck that up. Save up for some therapy bills, Janet.

Specifically for coaching your kid in baseball, I would recommend this:

– Your husband, and your child, should realize that baseball is a game of failure. As the old saying goes, you’re considered a star if you get a hit 30 percent of the time (except by sabermetricians who criticize you for not walking enough). So he, and your child, should relax and not worry about failure because of the nature of the game. If that doesn’t work, there’s always Inderal.

– When you go to games (and Janet, I know you do), you should get all sarcastic when the coaches say stupid shit like “come on be a hitter,” especially if they’re saying it in the form of a run-on sentence. When they say, “come on be a hitter,” you say, “That’s right son! Bash that ball like a baby seal!” Or “So NOW you get around to telling him what that aluminum stick is for?” Or “Brilliant fuckin’ advice, Lasorda.”

– Because talking reasonably to your husband failed, withhold sex and block his online porn until he gets the message.

You’re welcome.

The sad decline of Michael Costin Jr.

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You might remember in 2000 how Michael Costin Sr. died after being beaten by fellow hockey dad Thomas Junta, upset that someone elbowed his son in a practice Coston supervised at a rink in Reading, Mass. It remains one of the most notorious cases of sports parents run amok. Junta is still in jail on his involuntary manslaughter conviction, his parole denied for a second time, in 2008.

Also in jail: one of attack’s witnesses, Michael Costin Jr.

From the Gloucester Times:

…after the case was over and the attention faded away, Michael Costin Jr.’s life spiraled into drug and alcohol abuse and violence, court records show.

[Monday], Costin, now 20, was sent to Middleton Jail for 18 months, after pleading guilty to beating up his 43-year-old girlfriend and stealing her car two days before Christmas.

Prosecutor Michelle DeCourcey said Salem police were called to a Leach Street apartment on the afternoon of Dec. 23 by Costin’s girlfriend, who said he had grabbed her by the throat, punched her in the face and told her, “You’re going to die tonight.”

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The above photo is Michael Costin Jr. testifying during Junta’s 2002 trial. The Gloucester Times went into more detail about how he frequently has ended up in court again, but as a defendent.

Costin has already served time for assaulting the same woman and has racked up a multipage record in the past three years.

Judge Richard Mori [who has heard other cases involving Costin] said Costin has received a lot of support, including requests for leniency from police officers familiar with his family history.

Costin’s lawyer, James Craig, urged the judge to give his client another shot at probation, suggesting a brief jail term and then strict supervision by a probation officer. He even noted that the victim in the case has offered to take Costin back in when he is released, though he added that Costin no longer wants to be involved with the woman.

But the judge said Costin has failed to take part in programs offered by the probation department in some of his prior cases to help him deal with some of his issues, including a serious substance abuse problem and mental health problems that may stem from the death of his father.

“I’m really sorry about the thing with your father, but you’ve got to grow up,” Mori told him. “It’s got to stop. You just can’t do this anymore.”

At Junta’s trial, Costin Jr. told the court: “I saw Thomas Junta beating my dad into the ground. For the rest of that day and for the next day, my heart was in my throat. Please teach Thomas Junta a lesson: Let the world know that a person can’t do what Thomas Junta did to my dad, to my family and to me … we all want Thomas Junta to go to prison for as long as your honor can put him there.”

So is Michael Costin Jr. in this downward spiral because of his witnessing the beating death of his father?

I’ll leave that to the mental health professionals. But I will make one guess: it didn’t help. Neither did not having his father as he entered his teenage years. (I don’t know whether Michael was the son who reportedly climbed into the casket with his father during his wake.)

I’ll make another guess — the roots of the younger Costin’s criminal behavior are deep. His father, an unemployed handyman, had numerous convictions, including weapons possession and assaulting a police officer. The younger Costin’s grandfather fatally stabbed his uncle when he was 17 and was convicted of manslaughter. Costin, an unemployed handyman, had a record of convictions on charges including weapons possession and assaulting a police officer.

The grandfather also told NBC’s “Today” in 2000 that his son, Michael’s dad, had a drinking problem that ran in the family.

Michael Costin Jr., for whatever reason, is fulfilling a family tradition — no happy endings.

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